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Nature and Realism in Schelling’s Philosophy

Emilio Carlo Corriero
Andrea Dezi

The Existence (Dasein) of Light

The Principle of Light as Unprethinkable Being

Andrea Dezi

Texte intégral


1The System of Philosophy in General and of the Philosophy of Nature in Particular (1804) offers the opportunity to study – at various levels and degrees, in the real and in the ideal, from the finite to the infinite – what for Schelling is the internal articulation of the Absolute, that is the general law according to which the infinite springs from the infinite.

2In Schelling’s view, an infinite and indivisible affirmation posits itself as affirmed, as affirming, and as their indifference, where being-affirmed is the real aspect of the position, while the affirmation itself, or the affirming, corresponds to its ideal aspect. This structure is not an expression of mere decomposition; in fact, the infinity of the affirmation translates itself into each of its moments so that the affirmed, the affirming and their indifference, each for itself, can posit itself in turn as the All, i.e. infinitely as a bond of the three moments. The Absolute, in the excess of its affirmation, therefore shows itself really and ideally, and in a threefold manner in both ways. There is no synthetic relationship here, nor a possible influence between ideal and real, but whatever is ideally given is, in the same manner, also really given. The Absolute is in fact only what can (or has the potency to be) the real and the ideal, and in this sense it is evidently a bond of bonds.

  • 1 See SW I/6, 210-211.

3This infinity of the consequences of an infinite affirmation is exactly what the System aims to expose, indicating and clarifying within its own development the main lines through which, so to speak, the infinite bond expressed by the Absolute reverberates. In repetition of the same, the System exposes, at various levels and under different aspects, not just the accumulation of equivalent expressions of the same thing, but rather the only way of expression of what, not being real nor ideal, finds in the potency to be ideal of what is real (and vice versa) – so in the real and in the ideal – the only possibility to show that which appears specifically in the single moments of its infinite affirmation. In other words, the synoptic view of the System permits to capture and study in depth the nature of the individual «potencies» or powers of the Absolute, that is to say, the articulation of an inner and infinite multiplication, in which the affirmativeness of the affirmed (first potency) is multiplied, or reaffirmed and included in the affirmation of the affirming (second potency),which in turn finds its assertion in an interpenetration with the first potency, from which the third originates. «The triplicity of potencies», Schelling claims in proposition §. 56 of the System, «is the necessary mode of appearance of the real All (All) as real, just as it is of the ideal All (All) as ideal»1.

4Now the aim of this contribution is to highlight, starting from the System, the specific nature of these three moments absolutely considered, with a particular emphasis – in view of the ontological fullness that they assume during subsequent speculation – on the second potency, understood as an expression of the properly «positive» aspect of Schelling’s philosophy and thus of what there appears immediately connected to the actuality of existence. It will finally be shown how this actuality is bound to an intransitive conception of thought (as opposed to its reflective transitivity) and to the «groundlessness» or non-substantiality that informs Schelling’s ontological position.

1. The actuality of the second potency

5In the ideal part of the System, dealing with the «reflective knowledge», i.e. with the reflection of the infinite knowledge in relation to the finite, Schelling states that the general system of knowledge is a system of necessity, determined by possibility and actuality.

6Here the three modal categories, being distinct, express finiteness, that is the non-absoluteness of knowledge, which, as finite, can reach necessity only synthesising what in the Absolute is not separate, i.e. possibility and actuality.

7In this context, the actuality of the finite appears defective or deficient in relation to that which could be; as a result, what is actual can be synthetically affirmed as necessity only in so far as it is reabsorbed and denied by the infinite concept (i.e. by possibility without actuality) that includes it. Therefore, on the one hand, the distinction between the modal concepts merely expresses the finite condition of knowledge, while on the other hand their synthesis in necessity indicates application, i.e. the in-formation of the infinite in the finite, according to a direction that in fact goes precisely from possibility (infinite) to actuality (finite). Temporality, that hereby occurs, is seen as a sign of the necessity reached, inevitably in a synthetic way, by the finite.

8Although these categories are here wholly subordinate to the synthesis established by the attempt to temporally connect what appears separate to a non-absolute knowledge, they are however a reflection of general and independent moments, i.e. of infinite principles or potencies of the Absolute, which not only in some way remain recognisable in the finite appearance, but also find within it, through the clarification of certain specific aspects, a wider explanation of their inner nature. Such general moments, in fact, assume precise modal connotations in reflective knowledge, connotations that can then be reprojected into contexts, that are entirely loose from the presence of a knowing subject, or, in any case, that are not subordinated to a particular direction of the relationship between finite and infinite.

9Schelling connects the three concepts of possibility, actuality and necessity

  • 2 See SW I/6, 515.

to the three fundamental actions of knowing (of which all things are the passive expressions), namely self-consciousness, sensation and intuition. Self-consciousness contains the mere ground of possibility, sensation is actuality and intuition is necessity.2

10And, reaffirming the immediate identity of real and ideal, the initial propositions in the ideal part of the System determine that:

  • 3 See SW I/6, 499.

the real unity of matter, by means of which matter is in itself, is, as form of Being, also, and without mediation, form of perception (self-consciousness); the ideal unity (that is, the unity by means of which matter is in other things) is, as form of Being, also form of perception within matter (sensation); finally the third, which posits both as equal, is, as form of Being, also, and without mediation, intuition.3

11Therefore the real, the ideal and their indifference are given both in the system of being (real) and in the system of knowledge (ideal), and the first moment, i.e. the real moment, corresponds to possibility, the second, which is the ideal moment, corresponds to actuality, the third to necessity.

12Finally, bringing back these determinations to the general operations of nature and thus observing them from the infinity relative to the «system of being», it is easy to see that:

  • 4 See SW I/6, 500.

the first potency is the potency of reflection of nature, in which nature reflects itself as the general in the particular, as unity in plurality, and makes itself into its own object. In relation to nature, the other potency is the potency of subsumption, by means of which nature regains itself as difference within identity, as the particular within the general. The third potency is nature’s power of the imagination (Einbildungskraft), by means of which nature objectifies itself as the identity of the general and the particular.4

13From these general indications on the link between the modal concepts, the fundamental actions of knowledge and the three potencies of nature, it is therefore already possible to recognise certain general aspects determining actuality as connected to the second potency, or the second moment tout court, namely:

1) the bond with the finite, in so far as it is split from the infinite;


2) the accentuation of the split itself, i.e. the differing, the «being in other», the exceeding in general.


14The connection of these two aspects evidently shows how actuality must express itself in the moment of dispersion, i.e. the «explosion», rather than in that of contraction or self-affirmation, therefore in accident rather than in substance, in the effect rather than in the cause.

15Finally, considering the relationship between particular and general through the infinite aspect of the second potency, i.e. considering actuality itself as connected to an infinite principle, emerges


3) the position of a bond (indicated by Schelling as subsumption) that, affirming itself in a direction that goes from the particular to the general, i.e. from the finite to the infinite (and not vice versa), establishes the infinitisation of the finite in the infinite, and not a finitisation of the infinite in the finite, as it occurs in the opposite direction.


16As a result, to capture the actuality of the second potency as infinite principle, it is necessary to comprehend, in the finite, the reflection of an infinite capable of removing from the finite finiteness itself, establishing, in the infinite, the identity of the finite and of the infinite.

17But let us reconsider the problem starting from the first aspect emphasised.

2. From the forms of the finite to the principle of light

182.1. We said that actuality is expressed through the finite in its splitting from the infinite.

19The same split between possibility and actuality is a sign of decay in finiteness.

20But here we need to distinguish between finite itself and finite as far as it, being actual, is-not possible and thus reconnects to the infinite, denying its own finiteness through possibility. On the one hand, we thus have the finite as finite and on the other hand the finite as connected (in its own finiteness) to the infinite. In other words, it is necessary to distinguish between the pure actuality of the finite (i.e. its pure non-being) and the actuality that “possibilises” itself, seeking to synthesise the necessity of its being non-being through contact with the infinite.

21This distinction in the context of the finite between pure actuality and possibilised actuality, in other words, between actuality and possibility tout court, appears reflected in those that Schelling considers the pure forms of finiteness, i.e. in space and time. From the perspective of these forms of non-being in relation to the being of the infinite, it is space (the pure non-being) rather than time (the relative non-being) that is able to reflect the actuality of the second potency, which, according to an infinite perspective (and then in reference to being and not to a relative non-being), will in turn be expressed by an «explosive» and spatial principle set against the contraction and the possibility that are proper to time.

  • 5 See SW I/6, 219-220; see also Über das Verhältnis des Realen und Idealen in der Natur, SW I/2, 363.
  • 6 See SW I/6, 220.

22Space, for Schelling, is in fact the form of separation of finite things from the infinite5. As purely affirmed, without the affirming, it is an expression of the mere nullity of things, diffused and so to speak dispersed in a circumference without a centre. The pure extension is thus the form of the being-for-itself (understood as a perfect separation from the Absolute) of things, i.e. their nothing in opposition to the All; in other words, the relationship of the things with the infinite substance is expressed, from the side of the things (that is to say, in pure detachment from what-is and therefore in the absolute finiteness of the things themselves), through the space. But in the relationship of the All with finite things (hence in the direction that goes from the infinite to the finite), the All shows itself as the essential reality of that which lacks it, i.e. the All intuits itself, as infinite, in the nullity of the things themselves.6 This in-forming itself of the infinite substance in the difference proper to finite things is time. The being-for-itself of the particular expressed by the space is denied in the affirmation of the particular as such, which, being realised (i.e. passing from an absolute non-being to a relative non-being), so to speak, contracts within its own actuality, becoming in this way lacking in what the finite, as it is defective, is not yet or is no longer. Time, therefore, inserts itself between the possibility, which is proper to the essence, and the actuality that is realised by the particular through the informing in it of the essence. In this difference, i.e. in the possibilisation of the actual, it finds expression the necessity of a synthesis that tends to express the infinite precisely through the negativity and the inadequacy of the finite.

23What is related to the finite as ground of reality, namely the infinite as position of the finite (i.e. as its reality), is, according to Schelling, gravity. The infinite principle of gravity is the first potency of nature, and it expresses itself space-temporally through nullity – i.e. through the absence of a reality in itself – of finite things, so that the finite in opposition to the All appears as space, whilst the All in opposition to the finite finds expression in time. The space is pure absence of the Absolute, mere nothing of the finite, whereas time is, on the contrary, the relationship of the Absolute, as gravity, with what cannot contain it, i.e. it is a nullification of the finite by the infinite.

24The relationship of the Absolute with the finite is given here, therefore, only as position of the identity in the difference, i.e. as position of the unity in the “dispersion” of the All. Here the Being (τò ὄν) is merely gravity, which shows itself, qua time, in the particular. Therefore, although it is in the pure extension mere decay without affirmation, the particular assumes a momentary life from contact with the Absolute, i.e. it is, so to speak, filled for a moment with the reality of the Absolute; however, precisely through the actualisation of its own particularity, the finite thing lacks totality, which must therefore be sought in other things, that are in their turn particular and deficient. The affirmation of the identity in the pure affirmed, that is to say, the position of the reality in the particular thing and thus the subsistence of the thing itself, therefore implies a temporal linearisation, which is to be understood here as a polarisation of «points of passage» of the Absolute. These points, being differentiated, are at the same time – just in realisation of this differentiation – denied, i.e projected towards the not-yet and the no-longer of other points. The infinite in the finite therefore appears as a contraction of the finite, which is expressed, infinitely, through its linear expansion.

25If actuality is the being of the actualised finite (therefore, a being non-being), the first potency of nature, corresponding to the possibility, objectifies itself by reflecting itself in the necessity exposed by temporalisation of the finite particular. In the third moment, the first folds back on itself through the assumption of the actuality of the second moment, and in this sense – while remaining within the sphere of the first potency, and therefore within the possibility – it constitutes a coincidence, mediated by the actual finite, between possibility and necessity. This domain of time on space is what Schelling refers to as materiality stricto sensu, i.e. as the «rigidity» (and the consequent differentiation) of spatial positions in so far as they are ontologically subordinated to the infinite ground. The absence of an actual totality is thus expressed by material contraction, which, at the same time, is tendency to linear expansion of what has no reality in itself, so that finitude itself – as cohesion of the particular that realizes itself in its separation from the All – cannot but appear fixed and infinitely reproduced precisely through penetration of the infinite in the finite that splits from it.

26It is therefore only the pure spatiality of space that is able to be the image of an infinite actu, and thus of a second infinite principle of the Absolute, opposed to gravity. The pure nullity of the individual spatial positions as devoid of affirmation – and thus of temporal differentiation (in other words of tension) – gives rise to a totality in which there are no relational distances; the difference is removed in the identity through a perfect nullification of the particularity that affirms itself in a separated position. In this view – if a second infinite potency of the Absolute is accepted – it is possible to read the pure space not as a mere opposition of the finite to infinite All, but rather as an image, or a metaphor, of «real» space, i.e. of a space – comprehended in the fullness of an infinite affirmation – which will be expression of the ideal infinite principle that Schelling recognises in the principle of light or in light tout court.


  • 7 See SW I/6, 263.

272.2. The exceeding of the finite as such is thus shown as the reflection of an infinite principle which is pure excessiveness. Actuality is, in being, what, radically opposing the finitude, breaks the materiality, and thus the temporal possibilisation of the finite, from inside. Contrary to gravity, the principle of light posits the totality in the unity, that is, it posits the difference as such in the identity so that the finite itself can be infinitely. This principle exposes (i.e. leads to objectivity) infinitely (i.e. without the mediation of finitude) the infinity of gravity. As a result, by affirming the affirmativity of gravity (in this sense – as affirming of the affirming and as a multiplication of the infinite – light is shown in general as a «second power»), the principle of light reveals the infinite within the infinite, tearing away so to speak the hard rind of the finite in which the positive and the Being in nature was enclosed. Therefore, while on one hand the first moment (of which the third is a mere synthetic re-presentation) is defined by materiality, possibility, negativity and defectivity, on the other hand the second moment appears tied to ideality, actuality, perfection and excessiveness of Being. The infinity of this second potency, consequently, does not reabsorb the finite in itself as denied, but sweeps away finitude itself, which therefore cannot «co-exist», even if it is denied and latent, with the actuality of the infinite. The principle of light is in fact described by Schelling as a pure movement, or rather it is the very essence of every movement. Momentary life and thus the being-in-itself, that the particular thing acquires through time in contact with the Absolute, has the reality of its particularity – that is the essence that animates and moves it – in the principle of light. In other words, the polarisation of the thing, that is to say, its momentary being, has the totality – of which it is only the partial actuality – in the luminous essence, that is therefore the actuality of the infinite possibility of the actual finite. Light is in fact the absolute unity of differences, and it appears, consequently, in the dissolution of the materially differentiated particularity, as pure being, without inertial residues and thus without application to non-being. The being-in-another of the particular finite – therefore its being-in-general (as affirmed by the gravity) while not being in itself – is shown in the movement that runs through it, i.e. in the linearity which reveals the particular to be a mere polarised point. In the luminous essence, on the contrary, the movement «is» in the position itself, that is to say that the position assumes the movement in itself and therefore does not appear as a mere point of passage. In light, as in pure space, there is no relational tension in the individual points, and this occurs not as a result of the equal absolute nullity of each point (space), but rather – with light being a pure «spring» (saltus) – by virtue of an absolute effusivity (or actualness) which expresses itself in the perfect unity of what moves and of what is moved.7

3. The unprethinkable Being

  • 8 In fact these principles always maintain – through the ontological vision developed by Schelling af (...)

28The light thus tends to set off the contraction of the material positions, multiplying the particular forms in the general identity of the gravitational principle. In this instance, however, we must distinguish the mere transitive aspect of the application of light to the first potency (understood as the ground or the general substance of the being-finite) from the intransitive spring of light from the ground, where there is neither a «reaching» or a transit of gravity in the light, nor an operating or moving of the light towards the ground, but a perfect identity and a radical opposition between the two principles are affirmed at the same time, so that the substance can be denied in its substantiality, and the finite can be (infinitely) without a ground that supports it. This accidentalisation of the substance itself – which in Schelling’s naturephilosophy coincides with the appearance of the organismconcretely shows the possibility of a being that is purely and does not require a «consisting» in anything. Therefore, if the first principle may substantially not be, then a non-material being must be accepted, by virtue of which pure spatiality erupts in the heart of the cohesive matter, dissolving its temporal determination. This absolutely objective being – and in this sense intransitive – is the actuality of the second potency, whose general determinations will remain almost unchanged – as is also the case for the other two principles – in the course of the entire Schellingian speculation.8

29Although they change and develop their meaning, adapting to the evolution of the general ontological structure of which they are expression, the three principles retain perfectly recognisable lineaments in the most different contexts. Even the distinction between a negative philosophy and a positive philosophy emphasised by Schelling since his Munich lectures will show itself closely connected to a deeper understanding of the nature of the three potencies and of their bond; upon varying of the ontological context, they will only appear differently illuminated, or displayed according to a different accentuation of their reciprocal relationship.

  • 9 See SW II/3, 70-71.
  • 10 See Schelling 1989, 5-8.

30The first principle is generally linked to transitivity, understood likewise as moving from the ground towards the finite being of which it is the possibility, or from the finite being itself (understood as a moment of passage towards subsequent degrees of the same relative non-being) or finally from a subject or a thought that, as prius, is turned to the actualisation of a being-possible, which is incapable of “filling up”, in its own finitude, the infinite of that which thinks it. In this movement, which Schelling links to negative philosophy in general,9 the system of necessity, mentioned above in connection with the reflexive knowing, is reproposed. A substance, meant here literally as ὑποκείµενον, passes (transits) into being, which, being denied in its actuality, is reabsorbed in the possibility from which it descends, thus reaching necessity. The potency (potentia) of being thus produces itself in a movement aimed at the being, and through the being it is brought back to itself. To Schelling, this «subjective» or reflective structure in a broad sense determines modern thought in general10 and it is not possible to attribute an ontological meaning stricto sensu to it, but only a logical meaning, alien to the actuality of being.

  • 11 See here the Schellingian concept of emphasis exposed in reference to the definition that Quintilia (...)

31If the potency of being is intended as essence, then it is possible to obtain, through its passing into the being, only a mere essentialisation of the being itself, which consequently will be necessarily fixed in its inevitable «being-given». However, if a second principle is thought between the potency and its transitive being (understood not as a mere mediation operating on the being, but as the actuality of an infinite being), then the meaning – or rather the significatio11 – of that transitive being mutates in a radical manner.

32The second principle does not express a substantiality in general, underlying an effect, but it itself is pure effect. The immediate extroversion, i.e. pure objectivity, of which this principle is an expression, is not in fact the defective act of a substantial potency, but rather exposes itself as pure exceeding, that is, as the «overflow» of a being that is able to affirm itself emphatically as the “being of the nothing”, i.e. as the being of an absolute potency of not being. In this way it can avert the self-affirmation of the potency-of-being as being-for-itself, in a manner similar to how the light accidentalises the gravitational principle, which would otherwise tend to self-affirm and, consequently, to impose itself as a ground of reality of the finite things.

33Accepting an ontological independence of the second moment therefore means destroying from the root a substantial or subjective ontological structure that moves transitively to the being.

  • 12 See Philosophie der Mythologie, SW II/2, 279, 284, 627.

34The same principle that appears as light in the natural process and as Dionysus12 in the mythological one (or more precisely as the Dionysus who, by opposing the «exclusive god» initially imposed on human consciousness, illuminates within its blind being and thus “starts” the mythological process); therefore, that same principle that, qua potency, Schelling generally recognizes as A², may be considered metaphysically, from a positive perspective, as a pure act preceding the potency. As a result, the reference – in the context of a positive philosophy that opposes the negativity of a “subjective” ontology – to an «unprethinkable Being» or, in other words, to actuality of being as preceding the thought, reveals its essential meaning only in relation to the Absolute as second principle or to the second potency tout court.

  • 13 SW II/4, 339.

35Positing as Prius the second aspect of the Absolute – that is to say, an infinite and intransitive being which does not actualise the potency but enables it to remain powerful without shutting itself up in its own actualisation – establishes in fact the freedom for the potency to pass to its own being. The unprethinkable Being, i.e. – as Schelling states in the Another Deduction of the Principles of positive Philosophy of 1842/43 – the «primal Being» (Urseyn)13, is therefore to be understood, being purely being, as a place of splitting between the potency and its act, such that the passage from one to another does not occur immediately, according to the logical connection that binds the substance to its accident, but according to a will, or a position that must annihilate the infinite actuality of the second principle to affirm, in its place, a being that actualises the potency. By analogy, we can say that the actual being of the light (intransitive) in fact “overcomes” and dissolves the potential being of matter (transitive), so that the actuality of both is not possible. The potentiality of the one in the perfect actuality of the other shows here perfectly the identity (to which every form of synthesis, fusion or connection is extraneous) of an absolute identity and of a perfect opposition.

  • 14 See SW II/3, 319, 324; SW II/4, 96.

36This precedence of the second principle, that will lead, in the Trinitarian speculations of Schelling, to the attribution of a priority to the Son (since the figure of Christ is thought of as corresponding to the second potency (A²)14), can hardly be grasped from a substantial or subjective (and in this sense «modern») vision. In a perspective dominated by the first principle (by the «real potency»), the Schellingian reference to the actuality of an existence that precedes thought may in fact be understood as the absolutisation and the consequent hypostatisation of one of the three moments of transitivity, which would consequently impose itself as the indisputable and irreducible ground of any subsequent operation.

37The unprethinkable Being may in fact be read 1) as the possibility of its subsequent manifestations, i.e. as the unutterable possibility of utterance of that in which it expresses itself. In this case the unprethinkable Being would be confused with an unthinkable and indisputable absolute ground (“Ungrund”) corresponding to a «logical space», that is to be understood as a place of presentation (evidently prelogical) of the Being through beings. It is clear that here the ground qua possibility, synthesised with the beings that manifest it, would again produce a perfect necessity, expressed in the temporality (in not-being the Being itself) of its finite manifestations. Or the unprethinkability of the Being could be seen 2) in the actuality of the finite beings themselves, so that, with finite things being considered as irreducible, the rights of the particular, which is inserted into the historical context of its own temporal finitude, are asserted in opposition to the atemporality of what is general (here the necessity would arise in the form of unpredictable historicity of the finite beings). Finally the unprethinkable Being might be understood 3) as the necessity of a being-material, synthesis of the two previous moments, which imposes itself as inescapable and inexhaustible natural ground. This ground would thus be affirmed on the one hand as that to which the conceptual operation would necessarily refer and, on the other hand, as that by which this conceptuality, qua conscience, is determined and founded.

38Now the unprethinkable Being, in so far as it is understood starting from the second principle, cannot, under any circumstances, be traced back to this general scheme of the necessity. As unprethinkable, the primal Being is in fact neither a) unthinkable, nor b) transitive. It is the immediate exposition, or the immediate extroversion (expositio, τo ὄν), of the Nothing (Οὐκ ὄν), that is to say that from this point of view the unprethinkable Being must be understood as a perfect identity between Being and Nothing.

  • 15 That Schelling generally indicates with the letter B, in opposition to the non-actualisation of the (...)
  • 16 Quodditative and not quidditative, according to the expressions that Schelling resumes from the sch (...)

39In fact, on the one side there cannot be transitivity, since the primal Being is already wholly «out of itself» (and in this sense, here the form itself, i.e. the accident and thus the objective, affirms infinitely itself as substance, or better still, as hypostasis), while on the other hand, as its essentiality is pure excess (which translates itself into absolute power of annihilation of the being-actual), the unprethinkable Being, in the extreme of its excessiveness, reveals to be to the extent that it can not-be, thus dissolving any link with an unthinkable substantiality of the Being. This means that post actum, the primal Being shows the potency of its own annihilation appearing as potentiality (as being-in-potency) of another being, i.e. of a future being, whose actualisation would radically deny the actuality of the primal Being as purely being. This future being, the actuality of which follows and does not precede the potency, therefore presents itself as µὴ ὄν, which is initially pure possibility, in perfect identity with the actuality of the ὄν. The primal Being is thus shown, while still remaining in its own actuality, properly as A², i.e. as potency of the second order, that is subordinate, in order to reach its own act, to the actualisation of the µὴ ὄν (= potency of the first order). Therefore, if the identity Οὐκ ὄν = ὄν is given initially, post actum the identity ὄν = µὴ ὄν emerges as revelation of the essentiality (Οὐκ ὄν) of the ὄν. Now this potentialisation of the ὄν – which still remains actual in so far as the µὴ ὄν is in potency and not yet in act – is the thinkability itself of the unprethinkable Being, where thought is thus the intransitive and free emergence, ex improviso, of the µὴ ὄν from the ὄν. By analogy, it could be stated here that matter is the thought of the light, being identical to light in its potential state. As, conversely, the light that springs from µὴ ὄν in act15, i.e. from µὴ ὄν as a voluntary annihilation of what is purely being, is the thought of the matter, or it is what brings back the act of µὴ ὄν to the potency in which it is identical to the ὄν. The µὴ ὄν in act can therefore be considered as nature, in so far as this really exists16 and is, consequently, conceptually inconceivable, that is to say that it can be considered as the affirmation of an act that is an emphatic negation (and so its potency) of the purely being, which shows, per contrarium (i.e. annihilating itself in its own non-being), the excess or the absolute “explosiveness” of the originary Prius.

40The temporality of the being-material – affirmed as an unavoidable middle term in the necessary connection of possibility and necessity – is completely absent here, dissolved in the infinity of what is not in any way an «absolute datum» (there isn’t any essentialisation of being) although it absolutely precedes the thought. The materiality itself of the being (the µὴ ὄν in act) is therefore affirmed, in an infinite manner, as an expression of the freedom descending from the actuality of the primal Being, so that matter, by virtue of this actuality, is not resolved or reduced to the transitive thought, nor does it establish itself as the natural ground of the conceptuality addressed to it, but rather shows itself as what «is» the thought itself that reveals the absolute possibility of its non-being.


1 See SW I/6, 210-211.

2 See SW I/6, 515.

3 See SW I/6, 499.

4 See SW I/6, 500.

5 See SW I/6, 219-220; see also Über das Verhältnis des Realen und Idealen in der Natur, SW I/2, 363.

6 See SW I/6, 220.

7 See SW I/6, 263.

8 In fact these principles always maintain – through the ontological vision developed by Schelling after the System – an high natural and metaphysical significance, so that in the Darstellung des Naturprocesses (1843/44) the philosopher can present them as the «existing in general», or as the prototype or model of each existence, and in this sense as the general object of philosophy (See SW I, 10, 305).

9 See SW II/3, 70-71.

10 See Schelling 1989, 5-8.

11 See here the Schellingian concept of emphasis exposed in reference to the definition that Quintilianus offers on the same in Institutio oratoria (8, 2, 11). See SW II/2, 54.

12 See Philosophie der Mythologie, SW II/2, 279, 284, 627.

13 SW II/4, 339.

14 See SW II/3, 319, 324; SW II/4, 96.

15 That Schelling generally indicates with the letter B, in opposition to the non-actualisation of the A.

16 Quodditative and not quidditative, according to the expressions that Schelling resumes from the scholastic language.


Adjunct Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Teramo in Italy and teaches Theoretical Philosophy at the F. M. Dostoevskij State University of Omsk (Russia). He discusses some physical and metaphysical aspects of Schelling’s ontology in Potenza e Realtà (Mimesis, 2013). His translations include the Italian version of Schelling’s System der gesammten Philosophie und der Naturphilosophie insbesondere (1804).


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